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My, How Smith’s Conservatory Has Grown

The grand reopening of Lyman Conservatory in May celebrated the completion of a two-year $5 million renovation project that expanded the public and teaching spaces and provided access for persons with disabilities.

Designed by the Boston architectural firm of Perry Dean Rogers and Partners, the project restored the century-old conservatory building, added a new exhibition gallery, expanded the administrative and academic wings and restored the conservatory’s historic greenhouses.

Despite extensive renovations, the exterior of Lyman Conservatory did not change dramatically. Most of the new space is in an underground addition built into the hill on the east side of the building (top). Parts of the interior have been transformed: the newly created reception area (right) and an exhibition gallery (left) are at the front of the conservatory where the old “head house” (potting area) once was. Photos by Fish/Parham.

The Lyman Conservatory, formerly the Lyman Plant House, was originally built in 1896 to accommodate a single teacher and staff person. The original balloon-style core glasshouses, dating from 1895, were designed by the internationally acclaimed firm of Lord and Burnham. Additional buildings were erected through the next 90 years until there were a dozen structures, but none had undergone a thorough modernization until the renovation began in 2001.

In all, the renovation restored the structural integrity of the greenhouses and upgraded the technology for maintaining the conservatory’s remarkable collection of some 2,500 species of plants from habitats around the world. It also modernized and brought all the conservatory’s buildings up to state health code standards while still preserving the historic structures. With modernized facilities, the conservatory can expand programming in the academic curriculum as well as its public outreach. Smith may now assume an even larger role in the academic and international community of botanic gardens. For more information, visit

Bulb Sale Proceeds Go To Cameroon Garden

Whether you want to refer to the Spring Bulb Show sale as a public yard sale or a clearance, it was nonetheless a success. By selling pots of bulbs after the Spring Bulb Show closed, the Botanic Garden at Smith raised about $1,400 to send to the Limbe Botanic Garden in Cameroon. The plants offered for sale, most of which were hardy bulbs and still blooming, sold for suggested donations of $1 to $5 a pot.

The Smith donation, and another from the North Carolina Zoo, went toward several initiatives of the Limbe Botanic Garden. The Limbe staff is training farmers to cultivate the bush mango, which can be used as a soup-thickener, and eru, an indigenous leafy vegetable rich in proteins. The plants hold economic, medicinal, nutritional, cultural and social importance for the people of Cameroon and Central Africa. In addition to cultivating eru, the Limbe staff is creating an eru gene bank -- which will help in conservation, education and research to get high-yielding varieties for multiplication and distribution to farmers -- to protect eru from extinction and maintain its natural genetic diversity.

The donations will also be used to help initiate a fuel wood domestication program to encourage high-density production of quality firewood to preserve the rich and fragile biodiversity on Mount Cameroon. -- TPB

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